Finau wins Rocket Mortgage for 2nd straight PGA Tour victory

Stephan Jaeger waves to the crowd after his birdie putt on the ninth green during the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament, Sunday, July 31, 2022, in Detroit.  (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Stephan Jaeger waves to the crowd after his birdie putt on the ninth green during the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament, Sunday, July 31, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

PA

Tony Finau changed the conversation about him in less than a calendar year.

Finau got away with the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Sunday at Detroit Golf Club to become the first player in three years to win back-to-back PGA Tour events in the regular season. He finished 5-under 67 for a five-stroke win and a tournament-best 26-under 262 overall.

It was his fourth career win and third title in over 11 months. Finau began his winning streak last August at the Northern Trust, where he earned his first win in five years and 142 PGA Tour starts.

“I’m proud of how I fought through adversity in my career,” said Finau, a Salt Lake City native with Tongan-Samoan heritage. “They say a winner is just a loser who kept trying, and that’s me.”

Finau ended a drought in Detroit, winning for the first time in six attempts as he had or shared the 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

And, he did it easily.

Taylor Pendrith (72), Patrick Cantlay (66) and Rookie of the Year Cameron Young (68) are tied for a distant second.

“I wasn’t that close,” Young said. “Tony put on a show.”

In effect.

Finau has hit 66 of 72 greens in regulation, trailing the accuracy of just two players since 1980 in a 72-hole PGA Tour event. Peter Jacobsen hit 69 greens in regulation at Pebble Beach in 1995 and a year later Willie Wood hit 67 at the Sanderson Farms Championship.

With Finaul’s sixth birdie at No. 17 and a closing par, he broke Nate Lashley’s tournament record of 25 under set in 2019 at the inaugural PGA Tour event.

The PGA Tour will wrap up the regular season at the Wyndham Championship, with the North Carolina event opening on Thursday. Players on the bubble will have one last chance to finish in the top 125 of the FedEx Cup leaderboard to earn a playoff spot and a full card next season.

Finau and Pendrith started Sunday tied after a third round that looked like match play, and a potential duel in Detroit turned into a dud.

Pendrith had a lackluster first round of the tournament after sharing the first-round lead with Finau, leading him by a stroke after the second and equaling his under-21 tally in three rounds.

The 31-year-old PGA Tour of Canada rookie hit an errant tee shot on the second hole from the right into the rough behind tree branches – after being distracted by a fan crossing the fairway – and fired a putt 9 feet on the hole to lose your mind for good.

Cantlay, No. 4 in the world rankings, had his third consecutive round in the mid-60s after opening with a 70. Young bounced back from a 71 in the first round to finish second for the fifth time.

“I would be lying if I said it was easy to just watch other people win,” Young said. “Obviously today Tony beat us all from afar.”

Pendrith struggled in the final round as he did the only other time he had a 54-hole lead. He led Bermuda’s championship last October by three strokes before a 76 dropped him to fifth place, which was his best result before his performance at Motor City.

“It stings a bit,” said Pendrith, who played in his third tournament after missing nearly four months with a broken rib.

Finau started to pull away from Pendrith with an 11-foot birdie putt at No. 4 and a tap-in for a birdie at No. 7.

An 11-foot putt that saved the par at No. 9 was crucial.

“When that happened, it gave me some momentum and then I controlled the golf tournament,” Finau said.

He made a 21-foot putt for a birdie at No. 10 for his third birdie. After his first bogey in the tournament at No. 11, Finau made a 31-foot putt with a right-to-left break at No. 12.

Finau was the winner of the 3M Open last week in Minnesota, where he rallied after five strokes to win by three. Brendon Todd was the last PGA Tour player to win back-to-back regular season wins, achieving the feat in 2019.

“A week can change your life,” Finau said. “When you look at mine, two weeks have changed my life.”

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Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage

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